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Tennis Legend Alex Olmedo Passes Away, Winner of Wimbledon 1959

Two friends of tennis star Alex Olmedo share their memories.

By Lovey Jergens

It was 1973 in Beverly Hills California, 90210 • the phone rang it was Alex Olmedo. He wanted me to stop by to see him at the Beverly Hills Hotel, “The pink palace.” Where, “The Chief” had two tennis courts next to the pool. I had gone by to see him dozens of times before looking for a job there with him.  Here was my chance… He worked Monday thru Friday. I was hired as the Saturday person to work with David. My job was to answer the phone, book the lessons and the spare court – pick up balls… or give a lesson. I only made money when I gave a lesson. I was there from 8am – 5pm or 6pm. I had great years there. Alex had brought a younger brother David Olmedo from Peru. He was his assistant and shadow. He hit a beautiful ball like Alex. Always smooth and flat and clean. No extra motion. We had all the “A listers” in town as well as Hollywood.

Alex passed away this week. We hadn’t heard of his brain tumor. The Beverly Hills Hotel had taken his courts out twice, the last time for good about 20 years ago. So, Alex was mostly giving lessons in his home court in Encino.  Actor and comedian Jon Lovitz hit with him daily. Olmedo loved his precious old corvette stingray cars. He used to have a classic and a current model. He loved to laugh and loved his life. He loved his kids. His dogs.  

We will never ever forget Roger Federer was staying in the hotel thanks to his friend Arthur. When he met Alex. “The Chief” mentioned he had won Wimbledon in 1959. Roger looked at his quizzically and said “you ONLY WON it once?” Oh Alex would laugh about that.

As Vittorio Selmi says, “We will never know what that era of players could have achieved if sham ~ amateurism / versus pro players was not the norm.” The pros couldn’t play the slams or tourneys.  Personally, I think Alex could have won more Wimbledons maybe more than the one Australian Open. Pancho Segura would have a dozen French Opens. Pancho Gonzales would have had 3 Grand Slams in calendar year.

Alejandro Olmedo known as “Alex” or “The Chief”. “The Chief” was an old, old, old college joke. His teammates would tease him that he had bags full of silver, gold bars, jewels (maybe candy bars and aftershave)… They believed that he was really a rich chief. Not a poor “exchange“ student.

The story has a PS • here I’d been bugging Alex forever for a job. He called about 3/4 weeks after I had a serious pinky accident on my playing hand and hadn’t hit a ball. The morning I started I held the racket best I could and Alex hit me a nice ball that I proceeded to hit and it went up and over the fence and into the swimming pool – SPLASH! We agreed I’d book appointments till I healed. He saw my smooth strokes and knew I was a good fit fir the team. My beautiful FILA (thank you Marty) helped. Every Saturday morning I’d check the guest manifest. It was always a real treat to see who was in the hotel and who might be coming for a tennis lesson. Those were great years!

Richard Evans mentioned On Twitter that he always stopped by to visit with Alex. That is so right because Alex would tell everybody that Richard had been by. He was proud of being relevant. 

Gene Scott played in the Nabisco events with The Chief. He will be greatly missed. His style of play was a thing of beauty.  

Alex Olmedo – “The Chief”

By Rudy Sanchez

Sorry to hear Tennis Great Alex Olmedo “The Chief” passed away Wednesday night.

I went to Alex when I was a teenager for private lessons at the Beverly Hills Hotel where we became friends and was honored to play several doubles tournaments with him.

“Alex Olmedo, a two-time NCAA champion in singles and doubles who led the USC men’s tennis team to the 1958 NCAA title and then won three Grand Slam titles, died Wednesday (Dec. 9) in Santa Monica, Calif., of brain cancer. He was 84.

Services are pending.

At USC, Olmedo won the NCAA singles and doubles crowns in 1956 and then again in 1958. The 3-time USC letterman (1956-58) then went on to a successful professional career, including winning 3 Grand Slam titles (the Wimbledon and Australian singles in 1959 and the 1958 U.S. Open doubles). He also was the runnerup in singles in the 1959 U.S. Open.

Born in Peru, he played for the 1958 U.S. Davis Cup champions. He was the world’s No. 2-ranked amateur in 1959. He turned pro in 1960 and retired in 1977. He won 21 titles in his career and had a career singles record of 401-358.

Olmedo is a member of the Collegiate Tennis Hall of Fame, the International Tennis Hall of Fame and the USC Athletic Hall of Fame.”

He was the head pro at the Beverly Hills Hotel for more than 30 years.

RIP Chief!